A disastrous end to the butterfly season

I wanted this blog to be only a happy place. Who wouldn’t be happy surrounded by butterflies? But today, I’m feeling down.

This butterfly season (summer of 2014/15) ended in disaster. I don’t think that’s too strong a word for it.

For one thing, every single caterpillar I had since late January has died. Only about a third of them made it to the chrysalis stage. Of these, most never emerged – the chrysalis just gone darker and darker (the wrong colour – not the pretty black that we expect, but a dirty black in streaks around the inside of the chrysalis) and then shriveled or fell off its perch. The one or two butterflies that did emerge were deformed and unable to fly.

It’s clear that they had a disease known, for short, as OE. (It’s full name is Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, and it is actually a protozoan parasite, rather than a virus or bacterium.)  It is common in Monarch butterflies, but this is the first time I have had it wipe out all my caterpillars.

The other thing is that almost all of my swan plants have died. I never managed to get on top of the infestation of oleander aphids, and the plants started getting sick. I don’t know whether the aphids gave the plants a disease or just weakened them to the point they could not resist disease. However, out of 60 plants, I have only about 3 healthy plants (another 3 or 4 might survive, but it’s not looking hopeful).

So, I’m feeling a bit despondent. I pretty much need to start from scratch.

Perhaps once it gets closer to the new butterfly season, my spirits will be lifted to start again.